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Work at Home Moms > Using Public Domain Works > Public Domain Art

Public Domain Art

When you find public domain art on the internet, do not just readily assume that is free for you to use. Make sure you do your research online before claiming rights.

Public domain content and the Internet

The emergence of the internet made it possible for anyone with Internet access to publish patented materials freely and easily. This complicated the issue that, if any something is available through a free source, it must be public domain. When such material was available on the net, it could be perfectly copied among thousands or even millions of computers very quickly and essentially without cost.

These factors have reinforced the false notion that "freely obtained" means "public domain". One could argue that the Internet is a publicly-available domain, not licensed or controlled by any individual, company, or government; therefore, everything on the Internet is public domain. This specious argument ignores the fact that licensing rights are not dependent on the means of distribution or consumer acquisition. Chasing down copyright violations based on the erroneous idea that "information is free" has become a primary focus of industries whose financial structure is based on their control of the distribution of such media. Though this is legally correct, public support for these companies' efforts is significantly undermined by the belief that they are receiving their "just desserts" for decades of price-gouging for licensed media. Ironically, this puts many creators of such work, like musicians and authors, on both sides of the issue, since they have frequently fought media distributors over inadequate compensation for their work, but depend on distributors' revenues for that compensation.

Another complication is that publishing exclusively on the Internet has become extremely popular. According to U.S. law, an author's original works are covered by copyright, even without a formal notice incorporated into the work. But such laws were passed at a time when the focus was on materials that could not be as easily and cheaply reproduced as digital media, nor did they comprehend the ultimate impossibility of determining which set of electronic bits is original. Technically, any Internet posting could be considered protected material unless explicitly stated otherwise. Many Internet content providers attempt to assert copyrights by claiming all ownership and reproduction rights to any material posted to their servers, but the potential for conflicting claims has not been adequately tested.



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